Studying at The University

By Peter Brownfeld

Everything at the University of Virginia is a social activity. There is nothing, not even studying, that can be considered devoid of the all-encompassing convivial atmosphere.

At first, most first-years foolishly believe that studying can be done in the dorms. Yes, the University provides you with a desk and bookshelves in the first-year dorms. So you probably think to yourself that you can close your door and shut off the activity in the hall or suite. It seems like a rational idea. In theory everyone is here to study, so why wouldn't it be easy for everyone to study in their own rooms? This is a fallacy that I fell victim to. The notion that work can be accomplished where you live now seems ridiculous.

There are simply too many distractions. Just outside your door everyone is hanging out, and this is an almost magnetic draw. How can you bury yourself in Dante or Homer when you know that all of your friends are lurking just beyond your door? I know that I was unable to allow ENLT 212 to keep me from hanging out, and the draw of the suite was too much for me. As I got sucked into conversation instead of the assigned reading night after night, I quickly realised that I would have to find a new place to study. If studying in the dorms cannot be done, where can you study? The obvious conclusion seems to be the library.

While there are a number of libraries on Grounds, Clemons is the most comfortable to study in. However, the library is more complicated than it first appears. It is very easy to spend several hours there and get absolutely nothing done. If you are serious about studying, skip the third and fourth floors altogether. These are the "social" floors. The first and second floors are so-called "quiet zones," and it is possible to study there. Only in a University which turns everything into a social activity does speaking have to be outlawed in order for work to be accomplished. The third floor has a computer lab which is a distraction in itself. This floor also allows talking which is impossible to avoid considering the number of friends that you inevitably run into.

To be most effective in Clemons go straight to the bottom two floors, and hide yourself in a corner so that you cannot talk to anyone even if you want to. Aside from these floors there are a number of isolated study rooms on Grounds which are perfect, although it may require banishment to obscure places such as the basement of the engineering school. The key is to hide from everyone so that you have no choice but to study.

Once you find a place to work, you must determine the hours. You have to keep in mind that the weekend at UVA is somewhat different than at other schools. The weekend starts on Thursday, and sometimes even earlier. Unfortunately, it seems that the administration has failed to catch up with this concept. The four day work week is a dream only attainable by those in the Commerce School. To get the most out of your time you must be willing to sacrifice some more time on weeknights, so you can make time for the mandatory appearances on Rugby Road and at the Corner.

Studying is not impossible at the University, as everyone wants to do well. However, you must realize that the social life here is the top priority for many, and, initially at least, you may find yourself drawn to this concept. Find an area where you can be alone, and make time early in the week, so that you are able to take advantage of the true Wahoo spirit on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

ENLT 214M, October 1997